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Carpenter Bees and Their Control                                                 

                                                                    

                  Carpenter Bee                                             Carpenter Bee Damage (center)  

              Photo by Jerry A Payne, Clemson University                              Photo by Lamar Merck, The University of Georgia

                      Photos used with permission, courtesy of www.insectimages.org

 

It's always interesting to get inquiries from people about bees hovering around their decks, gutters or siding.  Some are amazed to find perfectly round 3/8" holes that look as if a vandal had done damage.

This little "vandal" is a carpenter bee.   A carpenter bee looks similar to a bumble bee.  Here are the differences between the two:

bulletCarpenter bees have a shiny black, hairless upper abdomen surface with yellow colored hairs on the mid-section or thorax while bumble bees have a hairy yellow upper abdominal surface
bulletCarpenter bees nest in wood whereas bumble bees nest in the ground

Though carpenter bees are very large and intimidating, unlike their wasp relatives (hornets and yellowjackets), they are not generally aggressive.  Though capable of stinging (females only), these insect don't usual sting unless provoked.  The males may hover around and intimidate people as they pass.

Carpenter bees are very interesting in that they will enter primarily unpainted softwoods such as pine and chew that nice, 3/8" entry hole.  After chewing a relatively short entrance, the bee will chew another tunnel, several inches long  at a ninety degree angle to the opening.  Here a female will lay eggs starting from the back, working toward the gallery opening.  

These bees nest inside of the wood.  There is one generation of these insects annually with most of the activity in the Spring.  These bees are known to return to previously used galleries from year to year, although other bees can make new galleries as well.

The most common sites for these intruders include fascia board (often behind the gutters), deck railings, unpainted lawn furniture, posts and unpainted playground equipment.

Carpenter Bee Management 

Some people don't mind these insect that much.  As with other bees, they are beneficial as pollinators of flowers.  However, other people are not as happy to have carpenter bees around and seek ways to eliminate them.

There are three ways of dealing with the problem: pesticides and repellants and exclusion.  

The most effective type of pesticide application for existing, active Carpenter Bee galleries is dust. Unlike liquid products which are absorbed into the porous wood, surface, dust remains on top of the wood and available for the insect to contact.   Another big advantage of dust is that the application is targeted for this pest within the gallery with little impact on non target organisms such as people,  pets and other animals and insects.

There are several such products available on the market for this problem.  The best are non repellent products such as carbaryl (Sevin) dust and boric acid dust.   We sell Apicide, a carbaryl dust product and Whitmire Perma-Dust (aerosol boric acid dust) for those wishing to treat the problem.  Either of the two products may be applied into the entrance of an active carpenter bee galleries.  Only a small amount is needed for each gallery opening.  The Boric Turbo product is recommended for vertical openings since it will adhere to those areas rather than falling down as the Apicide might do in such situations.

For overall control around a structure, commercial applicators are best equipped to apply insecticides that will repel and kill carpenter bees.   There are a couple of active ingredient, cypermethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin, which are sold under the Demon Max, Cynoff EC, Demand CS and other trade names.   These products are applied to exposed wood areas such as along soffits, under gutters or other vulnerable areas.  This type of application is helpful where there are a lot of Carpenter Bees hovering around and the targeting of individual gallery openings is not practical.  These products are restricted items which we do not offer for sale to the general public.   We recommend that they be applied by a commercial pest control/pest management professional.

Another options is to apply a repellant called Outlast NBS-30 which contains several plant oils that naturally repel carpenter bees.   The product can be mixed with water (works for about a week), but for best results, mix it into paint or stain or sealant (e.g. Thompson's Water Seal (works for two years or longer).   Outlast NBS-30 should be applied to all vulnerable areas to prevent damage to the wood.  Targeting those areas where insects return year after year may be a good long term control strategy.

Finally, exclusion can be used after there is clear evidence that galleries are not longer in use.  Because of the nature of carpenter bees, it is best to seal inactive openings toward the later part of the spring season sometime in late May or early June because carpenter bees may deposit eggs within the galleries as summer approaches.  Sealing the holes late may result in new openings appearing as the young hatch out later in the year or next year after over-wintering within the wood. 

Exclusion includes sealing the holes with wood putty or caulking and then painting or applying a polyurethane coating to the wood.  Note that the coatings are merely deterrents so that one cannot be certain that bees will not attack the wood again.  Where possible, wrapping wood with aluminum flashing is the best deterrent of all.  Plastic siding may be used to cover wood siding to prevent infestation by carpenter bees.  Wood-like plastic boards may also be used in place of structural wood such as fascia to discourage damage from carpenter bees.

Talk to us

If we have not answered your questions about carpenter bees or if you have any questions about any pest species that you have concerns about, please contact us.  We will try to answer your inquiry promptly.  If you do not receive a reply, please let us know by resubmitting your letter.  We get a huge amount of unsolicited mail and we may accidentally overlook your inquiry.  You may write to us by clicking here, send a fax to 845-746-9018 or by calling us toll free number during our regular business hours, 8 am to 4 pm ET, weekdays at 800-433-1128.

 

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Most Recent Site Update:  4/2014    -     Copyright  1997-2014

 

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